I am grateful to fellow blogger James Powney LINK for drawing attention to last week's Cabinet decision to spend £17.8m of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) cash raised through the Quintain development on improving the Public Realm outside Brent Civic Centre and along Olympic Way.
Just in case we thought that there may be other areas of Wembley or Brent that could do with an infrastucture uplift, Brent claim that there will be benefits for the borough as well as Quintain. In particular they want a public square outside the Wembley Library and restrictions on Quintain's plans for site NW04 adjacent to the Civic Centre. They argue that this will support an 'education quarter'. The Council has told the College of North West London LINK that it wishes to acquire the College's Wembley Site and 'would not look favourably on planning permission for the required housing provision if the college proceeds with an alternative developer.'
This is what the Officer's Report LINK had to say:
To assist in achieving the vision for Wembley, a significant element in terms of place making is the provision of new and substantial steps to the stadium to replace the pedestrian way (‘pedway’) and works to the public realm between Wembley Park underground station and the National Stadium Wembley: Olympic Way. This will enhance the area, both from an aesthetic and functional requirement.Olympic Way as a piece of public realm is showing its age. It does not present the type of quality considered consistent with the environment necessary for a world renowned iconic venue and the wider Wembley Park development. In the context of other pressing infrastructure needs and other Council revenue spending requirements, a response might be that a significant Council funding contribution towards these changes should be a low priority. Nevertheless, this would be a simplistic and does not take account of all factors, including limitations associated with funding streams generated from development. CIL funding attained by the Council is specifically related to infrastructure and is not available to support Council general revenue spending. In addition this proposed change in public realm should be seen as part of a wider picture about what will be achieved in Wembley which will have far reaching positive impacts for Brent and its prospects.Improved public realm has a key role in place-making. Such changes in their own right have the potential to totally transform the perception and function of an area. It can lead to enhanced social and economic value benefits that far outweigh the initial investment. Notable examples of the impacts of such transformational public realm changes are Regent’s Street, Granary Square at Kings Cross, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool city centres. Empirical evidence set out in valuing the Benefits of Regeneration published by CLG 2010 indicates a benefit cost ratio of 1.4 for public realm work. Specific evidence associated with Sheffield indicated that the £9.5 million invested in the Peace Gardens has generated £4.5 million visitor shopping/leisure spend per annum that otherwise would not have occurred. In addition it attracted commercial property investment and occupiers that otherwise would not have come, improving investment yields with the associated economic benefits of providing access to future investor funding.The transformational change of Wembley has and will continue to require strong partnership working between the Council, developers and key stakeholders. As part of providing certainty and support for investment, the Council has previously identified that it will use contributions generated by Quintain’s developments to support the new infrastructure. Key elements relate to where these contributions will be prioritised relate to the provision of new jobs and homes and improvements to the environment and public realm. As part of the shared vision for Wembley, the Council has worked closely with Quintain in identifying the quality of public space that both organisations consider is necessary to enhance the Wembley offer.Following a design competition, in which the council participated, Dixon Jones were selected as Architects and Gross Max as Landscape Architects for Olympic Way. Designs have been developed over a number of months that when implemented will:· Provide new hard and soft landscaping throughout· New coordinated crossing at Fulton Road· New Lighting columns with large banners and future digital screens· New Trees· Built in services to allow pop up and cultural events· Fast Wifi throughout· Containment for future digital screens· Wayfinding· Create a significant square outside Civic Centre· Remove of the Pedway and new substantial steps· Enhanced entrance to the stadium· New Retail / meeting point below new stadium steps· Removal of surplus ramps and steps adjacent to 1 Olympic Way· Cycle parking at Wembley Park station· Treatment to Bobby Moore Bridge· Long term management arrangements through potential for designation as a ‘Area of special interest’
Powney, an ex-Labour councillor, comments:
Agreed.I am not not reassured by the opacity of Quintain's relationship with the Council, or what often strike me as the perverse judgements of Cllr Muhammed Butt in planning matters, or the degree to which the Planning Committee is independent of the Council Leader's influence.